Back in 1994, Miramax studios released The Crow, which was the last movie ever made by Brandon Lee. This was a cinematic retelling of the 1989 comic book by the same name, that was created by James O’Barr. This meant that as the comic book was so incredibly dark and unnerving, so was the movie version. Back in the ’90s, it was released to both commercial and critical acclaim…and even by today’s standards, it is held in high regard. Perhaps it was to do with being honest and close to the original source material, or perhaps it influenced viewer’s minds with the controversy surrounding the death of the main lead, Brandon Lee. Nonetheless, it is widely regarded as one of the most underrated and edgy hero movies ever made.

So, what was The Crow actually about? The plot follows Eric Draven (played by Brandon Lee). On Halloween night in Detroit, his girlfriend is raped and murdered by a gang, and as Draven tries to fight back he is shot dead. Exactly one year one, a crow lands on his gravestone, and he is resurrected. This time, he is reborn as The Crow, in a full leather suit and white face paint to match. From then onward, he goes about a vengeance mission and vows to kill the gang that previously ended his life. With this in mind, much of the movie is based on finding and killing the gang. Due to this, it can often be described as cross between an action movie, with elements of horror too. For those that grew up on the Marvel franchise, The Crow is about as different as you can get, whilst still being a hero film.

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Arguably, a lot of the success of The Crow comes down to the mise en scene and the way it was directed. Australian director Alex Proyas was in charge of creating the tense, eerie atmosphere which he did perfectly. Interestingly, he also went on to direct Dark City in 1998 which was also heralded as a cult movie. Returning back to The Crow, much of the scenes were shot in literal darkness, and it captured its comic book heritage perfectly, often showing massive skyscrapers and rainy environments, just like the original book. This sets the tone perfectly, as The Crow was never meant to be bright and bubbly like modern-day hero films. It’s literally about an undead anti-hero murdering his enemies in the name of revenge. As a result, not only does Proyas get the cinematography spot on, but he also made sure the film stayed true to its roots.

In terms of pacing, The Crow was also solid enough. At 1 hour and 42 minutes in length, it was an ideal time and wasn’t too long, nor short. Ironically, the latest DC Justice League movie clocks in at over 4 hours long, which is arguably far too long for most movie-goers and film fanatics. Moving on to the acting, it’s good enough and Brandon Lee steals the show. Of course, The Crow would always bring up discussions about Brandon Lee and his legacy, but he was also a genuinely skilled actor. Part of this was down to his martial arts background and training which meant the fight scenes were done correctly. In terms of choreography, these scenes hit the mark and delivered, which isn’t too surprising given his past.

The Crow (1994)

However, it was the dialogue and acting skills that Lee mostly excelled at. Sadly, this movie was his first big hit in Hollywood and could have possibly put him on the path to stardom. Nonetheless, he was tragically killed on set by a loaded gun that was meant to be empty. After six hours in surgery, he died and the film was eventually released after his death. Given the morbid nature of the movie, fans naturally drew parallels between his character and his real-life death. Like Heath Ledger’s Joker, he had also dug deep into the role and truly immersed himself as an artist, which made it all the sadder.

What added to the mystery surrounding Lee’s death was the comparison with his father. Bruce Lee died aged 32 years old, and lived just 4 years longer than his son. At the time, many fans claimed that the Lee family was cursed as a result. In some ways, this legacy threatened to engulf the film and to this day is still talked about.

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With everything said and done, the question remains as to how well The Crow holds up by modern standards? As mentioned earlier, the fact that it’s still liked by old and new fans speaks volumes. Re-watching the movie, it also has a distinct ’90s feel to it. This can be seen as a positive or negative, dependent on your viewpoint. Regardless, one thing is for sure about The Crow. It is unique and genuinely different from most movies. Even without the Brandon Lee backstory, it still holds up and performs well on its own. Especially when compared to today’s formulaic action hero movies that often follow the same, cliched plot. In this sense, The Crow was really one of its own and is up there with the likes of The Watchmen movie in terms of offering a different perspective on the genre.

Overall, if you haven’t seen The Crow, then it’s well worth a watch. Is this movie the greatest ever? Definitely not. Ultimately, whilst the plot is solid, it isn’t exactly some kind of masterpiece either, and nor is it treated like one. However, it is a cult movie for a reason and that is down to its uncompromising, unusual nature. Back then, you could argue that film studios took more risks in terms of releasing different movies. This was certainly the case for The Crow that paid off, both in a financial and critical sense. With all things said and done, if you’re looking to watch something a bit different and darker than most movies, then The Crow may appeal to you. One thing is for sure, whether you love or hate it, you certainly won’t get bored as it is definitely a one-of-a-kind.


Author: Tom Higginson

The Crow [1994] Links: IMDb, Wikipedia

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